NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2008

The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year's election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected.  Where'd they get that much money?

That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities:

  • The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee; this is in addition to regular union dues.
  • Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in "local union funds" equal to the "deficiency," plus a 50 percent penalty.
  • According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences.  This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions, says the Wall Street Journal.

The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law.  Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on "voluntary" contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the "threat" of "financial reprisal."  It's hard to see that an SEIU mandate enforced by financial penalties of 50 percent isn't a "threat" or would qualify under any definition of "voluntary," says the Journal.

Union employees have every right to participate in elections. Union chiefs don't have the right to coerce them, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Docking Paychecks for Politics," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2008.

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